Exclusive Interview With
Mustapha Tettey Addy
Find Out What's On The Mind
Of An African
In October 2009, I was chatting with Mustapha for 2 hours in his
house in Ghana.
Mustapha Tettey Addy
ton of important information in his words.
To get the most out of it,
read the whole text or use these links to skip
down to a specific topic:
Music has a lot of potential
people here in Ghana. There's so much you can do with it.
Oh yes, there's a lot. Too much. You know, if you have little, it is
not a problem.
you have too much it is a problem! You don't see this? Go to the beach
here. I see some people from Spain. They pick
some small, small things from the beach and then make nice things out
it. Here, we have a lot of people running around
the beach, they go fishing and come, but they don't see those things.
you have to see it and know what to do with it.
But they cannot see it. This is a problem in the whole of Africa.
In a small country like Ghana, what we have here is too much.
From here to the gulf, we have Gold underground.
should be rich.
Yes! We should be, but we don't see it. All these motherfuckers
talking there (points at government officials debating on
TV) they come and took the whole
country. They take all the money into their pockets. And they don't
care to develop the villages.
If you interview me, you have
to know about this: I talk hard. Hard talk is not hard enough. You have
to be hard. I can say: This guy here is a stupid guy
and I can explain why: He has this, and this and this and he shits on
it, he goes to toilet on these things (refers to the
polluted beaches in Ghana). This is hard talk.
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have to wake people up for them to see the potential.
Westerners are curious about African tradition. They
would like to learn about it.
They do. It's good. But then it's up to us to wake up. We have to wake
up to teach those people. Because I know a lot
of boys running around here. When they see a white person they say:
"Oh I'm a drummer, I want to
teach you!" And the white persons who are stupid will pay a little
money, go do "pata pata pata" and then they say "I went to
Ghana to learn drumming." But it's not true.
I know some Ghanaians in
Switzerland and Germany, they never drum in Ghana before, they are no
drummers. They learned a bit from their friends and then they
say they are Master Drummers. I know them. And this is wrong.
white people also are helping them. The woman here next door,
an American. Instead of her to take professional drummers to
play for her
guests, that she invited from Europe or America to Ghana,
she go and pay some stupid boys who never drum before, their parents
don't know what drum is. And those guests will go and tell the
outside world that this is Ghana drumming. But it's not. That's not
Ghana drumming. I could hear them play in the night. They said they
played kpanlogo, but it was not kpanlogo. I was annoyed. Because these
people don't care about African drumming. They only care about making
money. They portray to the outside world the wrong drumming from Ghana.
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did you become a drummer? How can anybody
become one in
You have to be born in a place where there's drummers. You don't
just become a drummer. In the whole village Avenor, only our house the
are coming from.
So your family were drummers.
Yes. My father was one of the higher dancers. He teaches his
children how to drum. With his mouth, he can teach you how to drum.
It's from him that you learned
Yes. And from some of my older brothers. A lot of them were
drummers. So, the point is: You don't just become a drummer in Ghana.
If somebody tells you, it's not
You Europeans think everybody in Africa can drum. It's not true.
You think everybody in Africa can dance. It's not true. I was
at the college in Winneba here for one year. I
had a difficult time with the Ghanaians, teaching them how to
dance. Some people, they are worse than European people. You teach them
how to dance and they do like this (shows a dance move). What
You are like a stick! (laughs)
So, you have to tell the whole
world. Tell them! That me, I know something that I don't tell. Because
in Germany, Switzerland, Holland, England, a lot of people
there. I work with them and they run away with the money. I don't do it
Listen to what "Master Drummer" means. Do you know what "Master
Tell me what "Master Drummer" means.
Master drummer means: "somebody who no tell lie". If you are a
master drummer you don't lie. You say the truth. As a master
drummer, you don't hate people. As a
master drummer, you help people, anybody, whether a child or even
somebody who doesn't like you. When they come to you, you
That is a Master Drummer's responsibility?
And how do you become a Master Drummer?
You become a Master Drummer because you become a Master Drummer.
You are meant to become a Master Drummer?
Yes. I happen to be a Master Drummer. Not that I want to be a Master
Drummer. I never wanted to be a Master Drummer,
never. Even in our language, there is
no name "Master Drummer". We don't have that name. We have:
"God's Drummer". Like you would say the Lord's drummer. That is
why Ghanaba, who died, called himself "Divine Drummer".
So, you can not be a good drummer when you hate people. You are not a
drummer. When you steal things from people, you can not
become a master drummer. When you hate people you are far from being a
good drummer or a Master Drummer.
A thief cannot be a good drummer. He can be a drummer, but not a
A Master Drummer does not hate people. It has to come to you. You can't
go to University to learn not to hate people. It doesn't work, because
it's inside you.
And the drummer has to be humble. Respect. Loving. You know. A Master
Drummer, in Western terms you can say... No, I wouldn't say even a
preacher or a pastor or a pope or something like that. Because you
cannot compare popes with drummers. We are better than popes. I can
Then, as a drummer, how do you help people?
You have to help people in a lot of ways. People,
when they come to you and they don't have money, and you have money,
you give it to them. A drummer also has to learn a lot of herbs, you
know. When somebody is sick, my father was curing sexual
diseases, and a woman who wants to have a baby.
I can tell you that most of the people in the world are sick. Black,
white, green, yellow, we are sick. Because of jealousy inside
ourselves. Jealousy can give you cancer. Because it is bad vibes.
Jealousy can kill you. You can build a fantastic, tall story-building,
but jealousy can destroy it.
Another thing: To have power over people...
Somebody who is President. And he doesn't do things for the poor
people. Does he have power? Somebody who is President, and he doesn't
help nobody. He helps only his family. He takes money to Switzerland to
keep in the bank. Do you think this is power? No, he has no power! He
is the weakest man on earth! If money can run you down so low, that you
don't care about your people you are not normal.
Another thing: killing people. Hitler killed a lot of people. Napoleon
killed some people. And Bush,
The weakest man that I have seen recently is Bush. He's very weak.
Weak, weak, weak, weak, weak. Below zero. Twenty-five below zero. Bush.
He's that weak.
Let me tell you, what Master Drummer means. Master Drummer also means:
NOT to kill is power. To kill is weakness. NOT to kill is the
So, Bush could never be a Master Drummer?
No!! Oh, never. How could he!
Not even if he learned how to play drum?
Oh no. He can play hundred years, he will never be a Master Drummer. No.
This is very interesting. In Europe or America we have a
drummer, a doctor
and a preacher. That's three separate professions. In Africa however,
there's a connection between them.
Look at somebody like Michael Jackson. How many people
went to his concert, and they are all healed! Do you think, sickness is
only physical? I'm talking about mental sickness, emotional sickness.
They went there and now they are OK mentally and spiritually. They are
healed through the music.
And through his music, a Master Drummer can
Yes, yes, exactly. When you see somebody in Switzerland who is playing
trumpet or saxophone very nicely. What do you feel?
I feel good.
Alright. Just like me. You see it now.
You said, you never intended to become a Master
I didn't know the meaning before. One time, the lady who was a tutor at
the University of Ghana, was having a birthday party. She invited me to
come. When I drummed there, she said: "Mustapha, you are a Master
Drummer!" From that day on everybody started to call me Master Drummer.
She knew it? She could see it?
She even wanted me to marry her daughter. She gave me the name Master
But although you were already a Master Drummer, you continued your
studies at the University.
The reason why I went to University in Legon was because I was
interested in meeting other drummers. I learned a lot of things there
for four years and I met all kinds of people. Drummers from Nigeria,
from the North of Ghana, a lot.
And you have traveled around Ghana yourself as
Oh, I know Ghana properly. I know it very well.
You have studied the music of all of
I wouldn't say all. But most of it. Because there so much to learn in
You are a Ga. When it comes to drumming, does
it matter which tribe you belong to?
I don't know whether I'm a Ga or Ewe or Fanti or whatever. Maybe
because I was born in Accra people call me a Ga. But when I see Ashanti
people I don't feel like "oh, this is not me". When I see Fanti "no,
this is not me". The reason why I love all tribes is because I'm
connected to the drums. How can I play somebody's tribal music without
Through the drums, you are connected to all
tribes of Ghana?
Yes. Even beyond Ghana. I have friends from Nigeria. Good drummers. I
love them too.
You grew up with the music of the Ga. When you
hear music of a different tribe, does it have the same meaning to you
as it has to them? Do you understand their music as well as you
understand your own?
In Greater Accra among the Ga people, the drumming they have is the
most difficult in the whole of Ghana. They don't have a lot, but the
few they have is very difficult. Most people don't want to learn it.
makes Ga drumming different from other drumming?
This question could fill another book. The way the Ga people talk. They
bring the talking into the drumming. When you listen to Twi (the
language of the Ashanti tribe), the language is very easy compared to
Ga. Even Fanti is sweet. And Ewe talking and drumming sounds all
organized and easy
to follow. While the Ga, their drumming is so difficult. I'm not
talking about the Kpanlogo
rhythms, I'm talking about the real traditional
Ga drumming like Kpele
. No European would like to
sit down and learn Kpele
Are you saying, that the drumming is connected
to the people's language?
I suppose so, yes, precisely.
The more complicate the language, the more
complicate the drumming?
Exactly. Yes (laughs) it's true!
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You taught many white people in Germany, Europe
and America. But you
don't teach them Ga drumming then?
I do sometimes. The easiest one is Kpanlogo
Even, I use sticks but they can not use the sticks very much. They
refuse, because they want to use their hands. So I teach them
and other rhythms.
do you teach white people?
It's very simple. I got the idea to teach white people from the
University. There, the "Institute of African Studies" had a child
called "School of Music and Drumming". This is where I studied for four
years. And people said: "Why always African Studies? Why not
White Man Studies?" White people should come here and teach us their
thing, and we will go there to teach them our thing. Like an exchange.
I was thinking, white people gave us a lot. What are we going to give
to them? For me, I teach them drumming.
Do you think white people can learn
Yeah, for sure. When I went to Germany, I had a very difficult time
looking for a place to teach. I went to different places and they would
ask: "What do you want the house for?" And when I said to
teach African drumming they'd say: "Nein, nein, nein!" Too much noise.
Later, we found an empty house outside Düsseldorf near the train
station and started everything there.
Some parents brought their stubborn boys to me to teach them how to
drum. And they were very, very good. Bad boys, you know, from the
street. Some of them now are making money with drumming. I taught many
people for free. I just wanted them to come. You understand why.
One time I was in Bonn (Germany). There was a group of German people
drumming kpanlogo and dancing. Beautiful German girls and boys! And
some Ghanaians got annoyed and said: "Who teach them this! Mustapha?!"
I said: "Yes! When I was drumming kpanlogo in Ghana, did you respect
me? You thought it was stupid. So I come to Germany to teach the white
people, and now you see how well they are drumming!"
didn't like that you taught white people?
Some of them didn't like it.
That's their problem.
And then you
started to bring white people to Ghana, to teach them here.
Want to learn from Mustapha?
Since 1986, Mustapha teaches students from around the world at
his Academy of African Music and Arts (AAMA), in a beautiful location
ocean in Ghana.
Meet him there!
Yes. I brought a lot of people. It was a very nice time. Everybody
would sleep on the floor, with their mosquito nets. There was no
building yet. Only bush and snakes.
before you built the Academy of African Music and Arts (AAMA)?
Oh, long time.
I am also going to teach my children. All my family, so that we keep
the Ashanti drumming, Fanti drumming, Ewe drumming, all the drumming
here. So that foreign students can come here and learn. Because
Americans are going to teach Ghanaians in the future. When we are all
dead. Because they are collecting the music. They are learning the
drumming properly and the dancing. You wait and see.
It's not bad! What is bad about that? Our own boys here, their hiplife
(modern version of Ghanaian highlife music), it's American style they
do. So what's wrong about Americans learning our drumming? It's an
don't mind that Ghanaians start to forget their own music?
Oh, what do I mind! Do you think I have the power to stop it? When I
say "No, don't do hippie life, do Adowa
, do Kete
is better!", they will think Mustapha is
crazy. You can't stop it.
Can you stop the Germans from coming here to learn African drumming? If
you do that, you are making a mistake.
So, in the
future, when you want to learn African drumming...
... you go to America! Or London.
thank you for your time!
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